Clinical psychologists Peter Sheras and Phyllis Koch-Sheras have helped thousands of people rejuvenate their relationships to create a meaningful and deeply fulfilling love. Their effective 4-step "Couple Power" program is based on a dramatic shift in the way in which relationships are viewedwhere the couple is seen as an entity in and of itself, greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Discover the 4 Cs of Lifelong Love, and learn how to:
Commit by creating a common vision for you and your partner.
Cooperate to achieve the committed vision that you both have for your relationship.
Communicate to serve your common vision, not just to meet your own needs.
Create communities of other couples who can support and help nurture your relationship.
Filled with examples based on the authors' experience as clinical psychologists, as well as their 35-year marriage, Lifelong Love provides the tools you and your partner need to create the profoundly satisfying and lasting relationship of your dreams.
|File size:||475 KB|
About the Author
Peter Sheras, Ph.D., ABPP, is a clinical psychologist and professor in the Curry Programs in Clinical and School Psychology at the University of Virginia. He is associate director of the Virginia Youth Violence Project at the university and director of the local School Crisis Network. As an expert in school intervention and youth violence, he develops and evaluates intervention programs for schools, parents, and communities. He has been in private practice for twenty-five years.
Read an Excerpt
As couples therapists who also happen to be married to each other, we are often asked how it is that our relationship has not only lasted for nearly forty years but has also thrived. Part of the answer may lie in the history of our relationship. We met after graduate school, when Phyllis was thirty and Peter was twenty-six. Phyllis had been married before and had been divorced for nearly a year when she met Peter, who, though he'd had some significant relationships since college, had not been in any that were very serious or long lasting. Despite some differences in our ages, circumstances and relationship histories, we fell deeply in love. At the time we were training to be family therapists, and both of us were totally immersed in learning about relationships. Together and separately, we'd spent innumerable hours studying and working with couples, helping them understand the dynamic between them and what was missing in the relationship they'd begun with such high hopes. But there was even more to it than that.
In a discussion of how our relationship blossomed, Peter noted, "About two months after we began dating, I noticed that my feelings for Phyllis had become quite strong. When I passed her in the hall at work, I would feel flushed." Phyllis reported sitting in a colleague's office one day when Peter walked past the open door. She had an intense reaction, which was obvious to her coworker, who asked, "What just happened? Who was that that just walked by?" The attraction between us was palpable, even to others. One day Peter was sitting in the cafeteria in the hospital where we worked when he saw Phyllis walk in. He imagined what it would be like to say to someone, "That's my wife!" In that instant, he saw the possibility of committing to a relationship and the couple known as "Phyllis and Peter" was born for him. For the first time, Peter could imagine a future lived as a couple.
Phyllis explained, "I saw Peter at the orientation meeting for my new job. I was actually not sure then if I was going to stay in the position, as I had another offer that I was thinking of taking instead. But after I saw Peter, there was no question that I'd remain. It was love at first sight for me, and the attraction I felt was undeniable. Although we didn't begin dating until a few months later, I had already started imagining a future with him. Newly divorced, I was thoroughly enjoying dating again. But as time went on, my newfound freedom began to pale in comparison to what I was feeling for Peter. This became especially clear after he had me over for dinner one night. He 'had me' at the clam sauce, but he really sealed the deal when he serenaded me on his guitar after dinner. That was it for those other guys I was dating."
Falling in love is the easy part, however. The challenge is how to keep that spark alive over time and achieve what we call lifelong love. We have been working on this professionally and personally for close to forty years now, and we have met and worked with other couples facing that same challenge. We have learned from them, from our mentors and from our own experience what it takes to make a relationship work and last.
Here we will share with you how we have sustained our lifelong love and enabled hundreds of other couples to do the same.
What Is Lifelong Love?
From the time we are teenagers, and maybe even before, we daydream about love and relationships. We see love modeled by our parents or other adults when we are young. As we mature, we discover that we are surrounded by cultural images of love: they abound in the media, in romance novels and in music, in movies and on the internet. It is impossible to imagine growing up without entertaining notions of love and romance.
But what is love? What makes a relationship great or a marriage fulfilling? Is love a fantasy, an expectation, a moment, a sense of completion or one's destiny? Is love a pure feeling that is unexplainable, unpredictable, indescribable or miraculous? Do we find it or do we create it? Is it by chance or by our own force of will that we find our beloved? Once we find love, can we keep it? When we fall in love, how long do we expect it to last? Is our love meant to be forever or just until "the thrill is gone"? Is love constant or does it evolve over time? It seems that there are more questions about love than answers. This book helps answer these questions and describes the kind of love that creates profoundly fulfilling, lasting relationships.
Love sometimes seems like a moving target: we think we can recognize it, but we are never sure when or where it will appear or how to hold on to it. It is probably fair to say that our perception of love changes over time. While the subject of love is complex and confusing, we persist in clinging to the desire to be swept into the arms of our beloved, where we will live happily ever after. When love is new, we get caught up in the excitement of it and rarely bother to ask questions. At some point, however, we come back down to earth and ask ourselves what it will take to sustain this feeling. In answering this particular question, we will demonstrate how some people have accomplished lifelong love, and how others may have missed opportunities to do so along the way. One of the things we have discovered over the years is that lifelong love is less about having the right partner and more about creating the right relationship. Lifelong love is committing to a partnership that is made to last and to be enjoyed forever, even as the individuals change. It is not about constant compromise or "toughing it out." It is not just staying together for the sake of the children or for financial security or for other reasons. It is truly about being in a relationship that is fun and profoundly fulfilling.
Why Choose Lifelong Love?
Some may entertain the notion that finding one particular person to love forever has become obsolete. When contemplating an existing relationship, they may ask, "What if s/he is really not my 'soul's' true mate? What if another, better option shows up in my future?" The fact is that whenever a relationship breaks up, in addition to the emotional turmoil, there is the challenge of having to reconstruct one's life, often with the added heartache of a child-custody conflict.
There would appear to be many advantages to sticking with a long-term relationship with the same person, including a sense of security, predictability, intimacy, ease and just plain convenience. Lasting relationships provide emotional stability and comfort through a history of shared experiences. The sweep of our history together allows us to see the power of perseverance in overcoming obstacles and weathering crises side by side. A shared history, the same points of reference, anchors the story of our lives and fosters a strong bond between us.
In a long-term relationship, there develops familiarity, a deeper connection, a mirror in which to see yourself reflected, all of which have stood the test of time and events. Enduring relationships demonstrate the abiding nature of love in their hardiness and timeworn, unspoken acceptance. Such relationships also develop a resiliency, which increases the likelihood of longevity. They encompass and surpass both friendship and love: they are unique entities unto themselves. Finally, lifelong relationships nurture strong extended families that support parents as well as children.
Why Not Lifelong Love?
Given all the blessings that enduring relationships bestow, why would you choose anything other than lifelong love? Perhaps it's because you really don't want to be with the same person the rest of your life. Maybe you want more variety. Or you might be afraid that your partner will change in a way you don't like. Your concerns may be driven by a fear of the future; you may have misgivings about making such a long-term emotional investment in just one person. Can love really conquer all?
There are many fears that go hand in hand with the potential for joy in a lifelong relationship. Rarely do we dwell on these fears in the first heady days of infatuation; if unexamined, however, these fears have the capacity to sabotage us as we move through the later stages of a developing relationship. For instance, our concerns may influence our decision to commit to dating exclusively, to be physically intimate, to move in together, to invest or purchase things together, to share a pet, to get engaged and get married or to have children. In times of adversity, these fears drive us away from one another.
In our work with couples over the decades, we have seen many instances of this. Initially, there may be fears about getting into a relationship. The anticipation that something might go wrong can be a source of anxiety and hypervigilance. These fears are in large part overblown. For example, people's fear of abandonment vastly outweighs the likelihood of them actually being left. Sometimes the very fear itself gives rise to behavior that may lead to the feared thing coming to pass, resulting in a selffulfilling prophecy. For example, "If I am afraid that you will push me away, I might not risk getting close to you, and the effect is that I am pushed away because I do not appear interested in being close."
Table of Contents
Part I Redefining What It Means to Be a Couple
Chapter 1 LifeLong Loue: A CoupLe Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts 3
What Is Lifelong Love? 5
Why Choose Lifelong Love? 6
Why Not Lifelong Love? 7
Is Lifelong Love Really Possible? 11
What Is Couple as One? 12
Why Is Lifelong Love the Exception Rather Than the Rule? 16
How to Create Couple as One 17
From Problem to Possibility: The Entity Couple Takes Charge 18
Chapter 2 Couple Personalities: The Four Types 23
The Romanticized Couple 25
The Traditional Couple 28
The Self-Focused Couple 30
Variety Is the Spice of Life 32
Part II Creating Lifelong Love: Building Couple Power with the Four C's
Chapter 3 Commitment: The First Step toward Lifelong Love 47
Commitment to Your Couple 50
Creating a Couple Vision 54
The New Language of Couple 62
Designing a Couple Proclamation 68
Keeping Your Couple Proclamation Alive 76
Chapter 4 Cooperation: The Second Step toward Lifelong Love 85
Couple-The Ultimate Team 85
Cooperation Versus Compromise 88
Building a Team 90
Getting Results 101
Celebration-The Victory Dance 107
The Power of Cooperation 108
Chapter 5 Communication: The Third Step toward Lifelong Love 111
Responsible Speaking 113
Nonverbal Communication 116
Managing Conflict 125
Renaming Negatives as Positives 134
The Written Word 136
Chapter 6 Community: The Fourth Step toward Lifelong Love 141
Community for Couples 141
The Need for Community 145
The Benefits of Community 147
The Types of Community 148
Community Themes 155
Couples Coaching Couples 160
A Final Word about Community 167
Part III Challenges and Possibilities in Daily Life
Chapter 7 Applying the Four C's: Overcoming Outside Challenges to Lifelong Love 171
Workplace and Career Issues 176
Money and Finances 180
Family and Friends 198
The Internet and the Media 201
The Legal System 203
Intercultural and Interfaith Issues 206
War and Deployment 207
Loss of a Family Member 209
Chapter 8 Applying the Four C's: Overcoming Internal Challenges to Lifelong Love 215
Attitudes, Beliefs and Behaviors 216
Assessing Your Challenges 230
When to Get Professional Help 231
What Kind of Help to Get 237
Chapter 9 Beyond the Four C's 239
Couple Consciousness-The Fifth C 241
Couple as an Oasis 246
Conclusion: Looking into the Future 251